Before taking the stage Saturday afternoon for the Mount Vernon Campus’ Fountain Day, pop musician Howie Day executed his normal pre-show rituals. After two cocktails, a layer of Chapstick and one last glance in the mirror, he was set to hit the stage in Lloyd Gym.
The singer/songwriter, who was recruited by the Program Board for the evening’s performance, described his humble musical beginnings to The Hatchet.
Nearly 20 years ago, Day had his first musical experience when his mother brought a piano home from an auction. Five-year old Day quickly began banging on the keys and his mother signed him up for lessons, immediately sparking his musical career.
When he was 15, Day performed in local bars in his hometown of Bangor, Maine.
“It was almost like a novelty thing because I was so young,” Day said. “I really enjoyed it. When I was 16, I decided on music as a career.”
Day began performing more solo acoustic shows and writing music in his downtime. Soon after, fans across the country began trading copies of live performances online, and street teams sold records outside of his early shows.
Fans are encouraged by both Day and his managers to bring recording devices to live shows. “I think it’s good promotion. I think people like to especially (record) a show they were at if they were blown away by a certain song,” Day said. “I also like to hear the recordings back.”
Day released his first album, Australia, in 2000 as an EP, which was later re-released as an LP in 2002 when he signed with Epic Records.
After touring with Tori Amos in 2002, Day moved back home and took up writing for Stop All the World Now. The transition back to normal life took a little while for Day to get used to.
“There’s this thing musicians call a ‘tour meltdown’ because you’re so used to being amped up all the time and playing two shows everyday. When (I) get home, I freeze up and have nothing to do but sit on the couch and watch TV. I hate that.”
“When I’m touring, I generally don’t write,” he continued. “It’s a real bonus when we get done with a tour and I get to go home and spend a couple of weeks writing new stuff.”
After a few months of writing, Day moved to London, living away from Maine for the first time in his life. The new setting was beneficial in both recording the album and helping him jumpstart the creative mode, he said.
Day worked with English producer Youth (The Verve and Dido) and said the album became influenced by the British experience. Life, family, friends and previous relationships provided the material for Stop All the World Now.
“I tried to keep the album pretty moody,” Day said. “It’s almost like falling asleep. The mood drops as the album goes through. By the end of it it’s kind of like you’re half dreaming, half awake.”
Day’s sound and unique live shows have landed him on tours with Sting, Sheryl Crow and Jack Johnson.
“Doing an opening gig for a big act is good for everybody in my business because everyone gets to see somebody that’s been doing it longer than them or is more experienced,” Day said. “I found myself going, ‘Can I just rack your brain and ask you hundreds of questions?'”
Day described his live shows as a close relationship between him and the audience. “I like to keep a rapport with the audience like (it’s) a group of friends hanging out and someone picked up a guitar and miraculously had a stage with lights and a sound system.”
Day’s performance Saturday at GW lived up to the description. Due to the rain, fans were pushed inside as they anxiously awaited his performance in the humid Lloyd Gym. The crowd gradually warmed up to Day as he joked with the audience and covered songs by Coldplay and Dave Matthews Band. Fans sang along to his most popular songs “Brace Yourself,” “She Says” and “Collide.”
“I like the idea that whatever emotion I’m feeling on stage is transcendentally going through the music into the listener or somebody standing out there,” he said off-stage. “Even if it were raining and there was 15 people in front of me and 14 of them were pissed off and thought I sucked – if there was one person that that was happening with, that would be worth it to me.”